WonderCon 08: “Behind the Scenes of Beowulf” and The Spectacular Spider-Man

2007 saw a record crowd for the three-day WonderCon (in its twenty-second year) held in San Francisco, California. Judging by Saturday’s crowd, 2008 looks to attract more than the 20,000 who attended last year’s comic book fest.

If you watched Robert Zemeckis’ Beowulf, you would have been amazed by the computer animation and special effects like I was. The creative VFX team from Sony Pictures Imageworks provided an 'as thorough as an hour-long presentation could be' breakdown of some of the challenges they faced with such advanced computer animation.

WonderCon 08 - VFX Team Of BeowulfEven though computer animation has accelerated and evolved over the last decade, I don’t think most people realize how technical and laborious the actual work is. Most of the panel (which included animation supervisor Kenn McDonald, effects supervisor Theo Vandernoot, CG supervisor Francis Liu, and technical animation-supervisor Corey Turner) had been working on the film for well over two years, and this panel only did the 2-D animation and not the more cumbersome and detailed 3-D animation.

Each animator discussed his own involvement with the project and provided several clips as well. A few interesting tidbits (POSSIBLE SPOILER WARNING):

  • The two creatures each resemble in noticeable ways their respective fathers.
  • Angelina Jolie loved working on Beowulf because she felt so free in just acting and not having to worry about lighting and other technical worries.
  • Writer Neil Gaiman is an expert on dragons.
  • The animators tried hard to differentiate Beowulf's dragon from other notable dragons like those found in Eragon and Reign Of Fire.

BeowulfThe Spectacular Spider-Man is another animated retelling of our favorite wallcrawler, which airs next month on WB Kids. The panel included supervising producer Greg Weisman (Gargoyles), producer/supervising director Victor Cook (Hellboy: Blood and Iron), character designer Sean “Cheeks” Galloway (Hellboy animated films), and the new voice of Peter Parker, Josh Keaton (The Young and the Restless).

The show’s first episode premiere was broadcast in its entirety. I’ll only mention that the Vulture is in it and is voiced by Robert Englund (yes, him). My first impression is that the show really puts into focus the feel for the original comic book and not the movies or the popular early '90s animated series. While not as flashy as the long defunked Spider-Man series on MTV (which the panel addresses) and not as broody as the aforementioned '90s series, this new series seems to have a clear focus. The panel later said that one goal was to maintain the legend of Spider-Man while also keeping it contemporary.

It should be noted that the channel WB Kids is folding next year. Moderator Michael Vogel assured the crowd that the first 13 episodes will play on the channel and that another 13 episodes are currently in production and will be shown in some form, hopefully on television.

I’ll leave on the note that Venom should not be mentioned to any of the panel members.

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